First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kristina Cahojova: COVID really disrupted the harmonic balance I built these past few t years, but I put the strongest version of myself out there and focused on helping who in my family was struggling the most.
Being an ex-pat in the United States wasn’t easy before, so when COVID spread and flights to Europe were halted, I had no idea when I would see my family again. I missed weddings and important family gatherings, but of course, I deeply cared about my family’s health. Not flying to Slovakia was a way to protect them from potentially spreading the virus.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Lady Technologies Inc.
Kristina Cahojova: I earned my double Master’s Degree in International Management and Business Administration from CEMS in Europe. I am fluent in 5 languages thanks to my international study and work experience in Germany, Austria, Taiwan, Spain, and the Czech Republic. For my first business venture, TailorMySuit, I was awarded the Student Entrepreneur of 2011. I then continued my career in London, where I led growth at AppyParking (helping the app to become the #1 parking app in the UK with more than 1M downloads). After that, I joined the marketing team at Amazon and then moved to C2C marketing at eBay in San Jose, California.
I was inspired to launch my own femtech company from my personal struggles with tracking my fertility combined with my experiences in e-commerce. I was simply told to read cervical fluid to understand my fertility better. Despite a market flooded with fertility trackers, there was no technology out there that could help me at that time. Every company I talked to didn’t have a solution or shied away from making this product because it has to be inserted into the vagina. By standing up in front of male investors who were skeptical of ‘whether women would be willing to put a device into their intimate parts, I overtook initial difficulties in fundraising alone and set out to make a product that would help men and millions of women like me. I flew on a solo adventure to Shenzhen to prototype my first idea. Following a successful Indiegogo campaign that reached its goal in 36 hours, my first product – Kegg – launched in May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, and we are currently receiving orders from all over the United States.
How does Lady Technologies Inc innovate?
Kristina Cahojova: Our company, Lady Technologies Inc., innovates continuously in the science of fertility predictions as kegg continues to collect data from its many users. We are continually improving our algorithms, and we just released the last version of our app (v.1.1.1) based on users’ feedback. We hope to expand beyond fertility to encompass perimenopause, menopause, postpartum, and more as we grow. We are conducting ongoing research and studies to continuously improve our product and to finally close the data gap around the cervical fluid. For kegg itself, we have plans to enhance its sensing capabilities and expand our partnerships in the fertility field.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kristina Cahojova: Our company was affected by the pandemic on four different levels.
1 – At the beginning of the year, this impacted our manufacturing partners in Taiwan and their timeline to deliver finalized products to us in the United States, causing an inevitable delay on our e-commerce launch.
2 -Once the product became available for purchase in the US back in May, we then faced problems related to couriers and delivery to our customers: our partners in certain situations, delivered our product 3-4 weeks after we shipped to customers. Thankfully our users were very understanding and didn’t rate kegg based on this.
3 – Moreover, COVID lowered the consumer’s spending ability, which impacted the user’s willingness to shop overall. In order to help our customers make worry-free purchases, we enabled monthly payments through Affirm so customers could opt for multiple payment options instead of a one-time purchase.
4 – Last but not least, this deeply affected our fundraising efforts. During coronavirus, it has been hard to meet our potential investors face-to-face. The relationships with investors are like a marriage – in-person meetings are crucial.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kristina Cahojova: Well, yes. I had to let a few contractors go and had to make strict decisions about budget allocation, especially on the marketing side. And it’s even harder when your potential investors want to see growth in sales, and you have limited resources to invest in marketing. This summer, I also had to make some business decisions when I realized that delays in product delivery due to COVID were making early customers more impatient. So, I decided to move from First class USPS to Priority delivery; it was an expensive decision, but I knew it would be worth it and make our customers happy.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Lady Technologies Inc in the future?
Kristina Cahojova: During the pandemic, it was easier to feel stressed and anxious. To stay focused and optimize my time (and be less stressed), I usually answer these three simple questions:
1. What do I need right now?
2. How useful is it?
3. Why am I doing it?
To reward my soul and body, I attend virtual pilates classes a couple of times per week, and I enjoy a glass of wine with cheese (I love cheese!)
In the future, our goal is to understand how kegg can help monitor overall cervical health. Researchers have noted that health issues can affect typical electrolyte cycles. In many of our internal studies, we’ve seen examples where readings were “out of norm” for the user. In case after case, we found evidence of underlying health issues (e.g., infections) were the cause.
Also, kegg is currently being sold for a fixed price. In the future, we want to offer more to our users, e.g., connecting them to specialists to review their cycles or view additional layers of information. Once we have enhanced services ready, we’ll look at switching to a subscription model.
At the end of October, kegg launched in Singapore, and next year we are planning to launch kegg in Japan and Canada. We are able to launch in Asian markets thanks to our investor Fermata that brings innovative femtech to Japan and SE Asia.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kristina Cahojova: The fertility tracker space is broken up into three camps:
- Temperature Monitoring
- Detecting changes in the electrolyte levels in cervical mucus
- Direct Hormone Measurement
In the temperature monitoring space (BBT), we have products such as Ava or Daisy. BBT (Basal Body Measurement) is thought to be low accuracy and requires a serious commitment. Even if you’re diligent about taking your temperature as soon as you wake up every single morning, there are still other factors that can affect your body temperature and make it harder to pinpoint ovulation. Some devices require you to insert them and wear them all night.
In detecting changes in the electrolyte levels in cervical mucus, some wed have kegg and OvaCue. Both products detect and display changes in the electrolyte levels in cervical mucus, and they are affected by estrogen and other hormones. Kegg harnesses the cloud’s power and advanced algorithms to analyze the user’s data to provide a fertile window prediction. Kegg also has a kegel exercise feature, which is not only a healthy thing to do but can enhance kegg’s ability to detect changes.
In the direct hormone measurement space, we have products such as Mira or off-the-shelf luteinizing hormone (LH) sticks, aka “pee sticks,” that look for markers in the urine. While accurate in themselves in detecting LH in the urine, they don’t give you a prediction of upcoming ovulation, only 24-48 hours before.
As said before, to stay in the game, we’re planning to continue to innovate by enhancing our product capabilities, and we’re also evaluating the possibility of expanding to other markets.
Your final thoughts?
Kristina Cahojova: The concept of ‘digital solutions’ for women’s health is relatively new, and the expression Femtech was coined barely 4 years ago! Females were excluded from research and not included in clinical studies for ages. Isn’t it crazy!? So, Femtech, for me personally, means empowering women and giving them back their full-body control by leveraging the latest technologies.
Femtech is set to become a $50 billion industry by 2025. It deserves more attention, as there are many neglected opportunities. We must innovate and continue investing in Femtech to make this happen, and we hope to continue to empower women to understand their fertility.